Evelyn Alvarez and I sat down to discuss the beginning of Prom King, how it has evolved and her visions for the future.
SheKnows: Why was Prom King started?
Evelyn Alvarez: I started Prom King for a multitude of reasons including the fact that I was a single mom of a young boy I was trying to afford quality clothing for and was not always able to. I was looking for nonprofits that helped young boys and I found very few of them. I also became increasingly aware of the uncomfortable assumption that if you are not a rich white male you are always on and only on the receiving end of help. This model is just is not true, black communities and specifically black men can and do help.
Crowdfunding is a great tool but not all communities and persons are able to give monetary donations all the time. Prom King recognizes this and that is why our model focuses on giving what you can. Giving to Prom King is as easy as opening your closet and donating a pair of gently used shoes, a tie, a button down shirt and of course your time.
SK: Who is a Prom King?
EA: Prom King is not just about giving a tuxedo for prom. Everybody between the ages of 10 and 24 who wants to look good experiencing an amazing life event is a Prom King! There is no specific criteria one has to fit in order to receive help from Prom King. We have young men who have 4.0 GPAs and young men who would rather not discuss their GPA's with us, we have men who need clothing for formal galas and men who need clothing for court dates. We've helped people who needed clothing for a funeral, a court date, a family vacation and any other life event. In order to not replicate structural orders of hierarchy we give to anyone who wants to receive and feel great in their clothing while moving through life. Prom King is about giving and helping people feel great while they give and receive.
SK: That is really great. I especially love that Prom King is meeting people where they are in life and helping them help themselves without having to fit a certain narrative. What have been your three proudest moment with Prom King so far?
EA: We have established a great collaboration with SIMBA, a program that is part of the New York City Department of Education that helps young people who live in transitional housing (the young people do not have a long-term housing solution and/or are transitioning into a short-term or long-term housing solution) and were able to give all the young men in the program suits for prom through renting suits for them. It was really great to see these young men and their families come together and pick and try on suits for their prom.
A young man who came from a very traditional family emailed us asking for assistance with his eighth grade graduation. His parents wanted him to wear very traditional clothing from his home country but he wanted to wear something different. When my son and I arrived to the residence we waited outside while the young man tried on the clothing we brought for him. He came outside smiling ear to ear and then his sister came to tell me that she was the one that found us online and told him to connect with us. It was great to see the family effort and support.
My latest most proudest moment is my own son telling me that he cannot wait until he is 10 so he too can become a Prom King!
SK: What do you envision Prom King accomplishing in 2015?
EA: One of the things we want to do is expand our micro grant program which gives up to $150 to a young man who applies looking for assistance in pursuing something they have been thinking about for a while but were unable to because of financial reasons. One young man applied to receive $80 so he could become fully engaged in his school's ROTC program that he said helped him mature and grow in many ways. Another young man wanted clippers so he could work on his craft as a barber. Both of these things are so small when we think about it but as we know it is the small things that leave lasting and oftentimes life-changing impressions.
We also want to expand Prom King to other cities. Through working with grassroots-level organizations in these cities we want to be able to give suits and formal clothing away to young men in these areas.
SK: How can we help Prom King achieve these goals?
EA: First, I want people to begin challenging the ways they approach giving in general. Give because you are moved to give not because you expect something in return. I also want people that help young black and Latino men to think about the ways they want to help our young men. Do not approach a young man with the sense of "you are broken, I can fix you and this is why I'm helping." Approach them with a sense of "I'm here to help you reach your full potential that you already have within."
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